Wednesday, July 15, 2015

43 miles, 2300 ft climbing

This day was nicknamed Buggies Day and did not disappoint. It was also the peak day for climbing, but as the week wore on I actually felt myself getting stronger, as my earlier problems mostly reflected a lack of training (hill training being rather difficult where I live). As things turned out, I’m sure that I could easily have done the longer 52-mile loop since it was only 11 fairly flat miles longer than the medium route, but I did intend to take it easier with longer breaks this day.

Dean and Jan starting out on a cool, damp morning

We also started a half hour later than usual on this day because the overnight storms gave way to a very cloudy, damp, and foggy morning. However, when I started at about 8:30, the fog was never an issue and the overcast skies kept it cool for most of the day. My only concession to the possibly wet roads was to tie a baggy over the top of my water bottles. It seems that with all the horses on the road, that mud-spatter on your bottle might not be mud, if you get my drift…

Jeff wipes down his bike before the day’s ride

Today was also a day of mostly continuous steep rollers. Looking at the elevation chart, you can see that the difference between the highest and lowest points of the route was only 300 ft, but they just kept coming. Buggies don’t do any better than bikes at getting up them either, and on one particular long hill it was bike-buggy-bike-buggy with Dean and Jan on their tandem leading the procession and me sandwiched between the two buggies. Again, it was never a problem, but that clop-clop sound behind me always seemed like it was catching up. Vehicle drivers were generally courteous, as there’s not much difference between following a slow bike up a hill vs. following a buggy.

Everybody is headed to Mt. Hope
Buggy parking at Mrs. Yoder’s

The first attraction of the day was the town of Mt Hope, where a weekly auction was set to begin, thereby attracting a stream of buggies that were coming into town from all directions. Some of us opted to have a second breakfast at Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen, which was also popular with the locals (I think that everyone in the county is named either “Yoder” or “Miller”!). But I was having so much fun on the hills that I just pressed on.

Road closed, but not to bikes!

We had been traveling pretty much due north, and it was when we got into Wayne County and turned east on Emerson Rd that I had one of the nicest experiences ever on a road ride. Joe had been scouting the route the day before and had previously noted that Emerson was a bit rough to ride because, like many of the secondary roads in the area, the buggies tend to cause extra wear on the outside edges of the road — right where cyclists like to ride. He was then concerned about seeing a “Road Closed” sign at this point and drove down to where he could see a crew laying asphalt along the side of the road where we were supposed to go. When he asked them if the road would be opened so we could ride there the next day, he was really taken aback when they said something to the effect of “Of course — we’re doing this for you!” It seems that when BCR sent their route sheets in advance to the county offices, they really took it seriously and decided to fix up some of the roads for us. When has that ever happened before??

So turning onto Emerson it was like having our own private bike path. Not only that, but since they were working on the other side of the road, the “Road Closed” signage was still in effect. Wayne County is much flatter than Holmes County, so I had one of the more pleasant cruises of the day all the way into the rest stop at Lehman’s Hardware in the town of Kidron.

Paul and Connie chat with Les at the sag stop

After stopping and chatting with Les for a while and welcoming some other riders, I walked over to explore Lehman’s. To call it a “hardware store” is to understate its size and the variety of merchandise. It is a tourist attraction in itself, while also serving the local populace with regionally popular items like wood-burning stoves, farm equipment, and a kitchen section devoted to utensils for canning, smoking meat, and other DIY projects. I spent quite a bit of time there without even seeing it all as the aisles meander around through a number of interconnected buildings.

Both wood and gas stoves offered
A big kitchen department
Beautiful 3D wood carvings. Some are based on well-known paintings.

At this point, the route turned back southward toward Berlin and I started thinking about having a good, sit-down lunch for a change. The solution for this was obvious: the Amish Door complex in Wilmot, which had a number of Amish-related shops in addition to a very nice full-service restaurant. I started out alone, but was soon joined by Pat, making it that much more enjoyable. Pat certainly qualifies as the “most improved rider” over the course of the week. It was gratifying to see a younger new cyclist grow in confidence from day to day, and the last I heard she was thinking of continuing her training and coming back to conquer the tour again next year.

Horses running free near Winesburg. The Amish raise some beautiful horses for all their purposes.

After such a nice lunch, you would think that I would be good to go to the finish. But I hadn’t had dessert yet, and when I got to Winesburg there was a place touting its soft-serve ice cream and who could resist that? Farther along, it was Troyer’s Trail Bologna shop that drew attention, although I chose to bypass it. And from there things were familiar from the day before as I headed back along CR 168 and one last steep hill up to US-62 and across to the Berlin Grande. Back at last after a 43-mile day just as the weather was finally starting to heat up.

At the regular wine & cheese reception in the hotel, BCR explained the next day’s route when we would leave the Amish country and transition to New Philadelphia. It was at about this time that we asked for the definition of their terms for severity of the climbs: is “major climb” more severe than “significant climb,” and where does “somewhat major” fit in? Maybe they should copy the Tour de France and rate hills as “4-3-2-1-HC.” But this was of course all in good fun.

Dinner that evening was on our own, but since there were just a handful of choices everyone pretty much went off in groups. I went with the group going to Boyd Wurthman’s Restaurant that is staffed by Amish and Mennonite women and offers typical fare for the area. The BCR staff, having been here before, showed themselves to be savvy as they came in right after our group, but hurried to get their order in so they could get the last couple of helpings of the meat loaf dinner, leaving us to settle for other menu selections. At least we managed to get the final helpings of some of the pies that were also going fast as it approached the early closing time. But I’m still looking for future payback…

Outside Boyd Wurthman’s: Linda, Steve, Rod, Chris, me, Jan, Joe, and Dean

Continue to Day 5

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